Escaping the Probability Tunnel Using Randonautica: A deep dive into how to randonaut, or go on mysterious, synchronistic adventures using the Randonautica app.

Highlights include:

  • Psychic self-defense
  • Ideas behind how the app works
  • Weird owl stories
  • Probability Tunnels

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Episode Script for Escaping the Probability Tunnel (Randonautica)

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

What is Randonautica?

  • Randonautica is a free app that you can download to your phone. You set an intention in your mind (you don’t type it anywhere in the app), and then it generates a random point near you for you to visit. Then you visit the place.
  • You can set the radius, and adjust other settings, which I’ll get into, but that’s the basic gist.
  • The app became very popular in 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. The beta version of the app came out in early 2020, and people grabbed onto it as a fun thing you can do outside, near where they lived. Since then, it’s almost taken on the character of an urban legend. 
  • The idea is that the app breaks you out of your daily routine, out of your mundane daily reality, and basically takes you on an adventure. Ideally, it also gets you to engage more with your own life, getting you away from screens for a bit and breaking you out of the social media, TV shows, etc, that often end up filling up our free time.
  • I’ve been using the app for about 2 years, and I can say that it’s definitely interesting. I’ve found that it’s led to a number of synchronicities, has a bit of a sense of humor, and at least one time, it’s tried to give me a very specific message to warn me about something, which I foolishly decided to ignore.
  • I’ll get into my own experiences while using randonautica in the next episode, but this time I just want to talk about what the app is, how to use it, and some of the theories behind it.
  • I’ve read the book The Official Guide to Randonautica: Everything You Need to Know about Creating Your Random Adventure Story by Joshua Lengfelder and Auburn Salcedo (2021) twice so far in 2022, so a lot of the information in this episode comes from that book, and I’ll read some bits from the book. 
    • If you think that anything that I’m talking about is interesting, then you should definitely pick it up. 
    • I read it initially in audio, and then re-read it as an ebook so I could take notes and highlight things, but I’ve seen the physical book before and it’s really cool looking, so worth picking up in whatever your favorite format is.

A quick history of Randonautica

  • The book goes into a lot of detail about this, so I’ll just hit the broad strokes: 
  • I’ve mentioned this in some of the Fordham episodes where I talked about psychogeography, but back in the mid-20th century, a Marxist philosopher named Guy Debord came up with this idea of the dérive, or drift. The idea is that during the dérive, you go on an unplanned walk through a (usually urban) landscape. The Randonautica book describes it really well: “The idea was to reshape how people view cities and to develop a more holistic perspective on the urban environment as a living, breathing creature.”
  • Randonautica goes a bit further, giving the Randonaut a specific destination, and making the trip actually random.
    • The person using Randonautica is called a Randonaut, and the term comes from the words “random” and “nautical,” meaning “randomness explorer.”
  • Before there was a Randonautica app, there was a Randonauting subreddit, of course. People in the community were given random coordinates, and weird stuff started happening. 
    • From the book:
      • “The Randonauts’ stories were not only mind-bending but oftentimes connected. People were also corroborating similar feelings like despair or fear on their first time out. 
      • Others were telling stories of odd occurrences, like coming across people who appeared to be out of place—for example, a woman seemingly inexplicably staring into the distance while standing still, or a man walking in circles around a small fence. People weren’t the only ones acting strange; animals were overly friendly and approachable. Cats, dogs, birds, even larger animals like cows and horses would gently mosey their way over to the stranger stepping into their otherwise predictable animal world.”
    • There was also a wild story about how owls suddenly started appearing on people’s trips. People were baffled, but then it turned out that one of the developers at Randonautica had happened to put a weird antique owl statue, which he had found while Randonauting, on top of the server that was generating the random points. As an experiment, the developers tried placing other things on top of the server to see whether people would see them on their trips, and of course, they did. They tried it out with salt and a meteorite (which led to people seeing UFOs.)
  • For a while, Randonautica was a bot on Telegram, then it was a bot on a website, and then on February 22, 2020, the beta app was released and quickly went viral. There was a #randonautchallenge hashtag, and the app also got some negative press when some randonauts found a suitcase in Seattle with a body in it. 

How does Randonautica work?

    • Part of the idea behind Randonautica is that it breaks you out of your “probability tunnel,” which the book defines as: “an abstract representation of the idea that limited decision-making possibilities based on a human’s previous experiences and patterns create a likely ‘probable’ response.” 
      • That may feel a bit hard to parse, but think about it this way. Every day, you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast. You probably choose from one of a couple typical breakfast foods, and you eat that while watching or listening to something that you typically watch, etc. 
      • If you work outside the house, you may walk the same way to the train or bus stop, or drive the same route to work every day. You’re probably not going to deviate from that very often, or if you do, it’s because you’re going somewhere specific, like to the grocery store you always go to, or a park that you like.
      • You have this routine of non-random things that you do every day, that takes you down the same path every day. That’s your probability tunnel.
      • You might not know you’re in your probability tunnel, which makes it even harder to break out of. You don’t really end up making random decisions, which means you could be missing a lot of stuff that’s outside your tunnel.
    • Let me read a bit from the book:
      • “Let’s assume there were an infinite number of small occurrences that had to happen in order for you to be in this precise time and space. What role did you consciously play? What if every move you’ve made—emotional responses, left turns, right turns, choices in relationships, your work, your hobbies, the media you’ve consumed, and all your other habits—has been part of a predetermined order of your life? In other words, your probability tunnel. A long, narrow, enclosed path that you follow aimlessly day-to-day. How can you escape it? You’re basically operating like a human algorithm.”
    • So, again, Randonautica is meant to break you out of this algorithm or matrix. And it’s not a matrix like in the movie The Matrix, where the world is fake or anything. It’s just supposed to change your perspective. Ideally, it’ll take you to new places, and maybe even challenge some of your beliefs about how the world and reality works. 
    • For me, Randonautica has done a bit of both. It has broken my routine, shown me some cool stuff, and even sent me pretty clear messages at times. 
    • There are some theories about mind matter interaction and destroying Cartesian dualism. 
      • Dualism is the idea that your mind is separate from physical reality, but I can’t explain it much better than that.
      • The YouTuber Thought Slime did a video about non-dualism which you should watch if you want to know more about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp2iZqUJV3w
    • I’m probably not going to do the best job of explaining this, but there’s something significant in setting intentions. I think there’s a handful of different explanations for this, but to me, the most compelling one is this idea that humans may be able to influence random number generators (RNGs).
      • There’s a group called the Global Consciousness Project that studies this. 
      • I really struggle to describe and articulate the concept, so I’ll read a bit more from the Randonautica book:
  • The Global Consciousness Project . . . studies the ability of consciousness to influence RNGs. At a very basic level, they study the connection between minds and intentions, and the distribution of random data they’ve collected from devices. The project’s experiments have pointed toward the possibility that human consciousness interacts with RNG devices at the quantum physical level. Specifically, one set of experiments found that when they put an RNG at a location where groups of humans were at a high level of coherence, like at an opera where a large number of people were listening to the same music and feeling the same emotions, the devices deviated from the expected normal distribution of random numbers. . . . The results of the . . . experiments suggested that when people gathered together are on the same vibe or wavelength, the resonant energy produced will create unexpected effects on the RNGs. 
  • Interestingly, when they placed RNGs in busy shopping malls or places that lacked the resonant coherence of a group, they found the RNGs did not deviate significantly from the normal expected outcome. . . 
  • The researchers at the Global Consciousness Project went on to create a network of RNGs across the globe, referred to as the “EGG” (which stands for ElectroGaiaGram), that would pick up on large-scale events that seemed to affect the global intelligent field. Events such as the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, showed high levels of coherence among the RNGs of the EGG. These events drastically affected human consciousness and seemed to have a measurable effect on the RNGs, causing them to output data that was less random than expected.

Criticisms of Randonautica

  • Some skeptics of Randonaut say that the strange encounters and synchronicities that people experience using the app are just the result of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which is when you learn something new and then suddenly see that thing everywhere.
    • So for example, if I go Randonauting with the intention of “flamingo,” maybe I’ll suddenly notice a bunch of lawn flamingos that I’d walked by before but never paid attention to.
  • Some people say it’s just an example of confirmation bias, which is where you look for evidence to support your existing beliefs.

How do you use Randonautica?

    • I went over this a bit in the beginning, but let’s get into a bit more detail into how to use the Randonautica app.
    • It’s an app that’s available for Android and iOS, so of course first you want to download the app. 
    • The current version of the app has coins called “Owl Tokens” that you need to claim in order to use it, but it gives you a bunch of free ones, so just follow the prompts to claim the free daily tokens. You get allotted new ones every day, so I’ve never run out, but if you do run out, or if you want to support the developers, you can buy some as well.
    • Then you go to the “Point Finder” section in the menu and you should see a map of where you are. You can change the radius on the map (the smallest size is 1 kilometer, I believe); that’s the area that the app will generate points within. The app uses an algorithm to generate a bunch of random points within the radius.
    • Choose whether you want it to look for Anomalies or Blind Spots
      • If you select Anomalies, it’ll look for areas where the random points that the app generated are either really close together (those are Attractors), spread out (which the app calls Voids), or just the most anomalous area (called Power) Basically, it’s looking for something out of the ordinary.
        • Some people have reported that void spots tend to feel eerie, airy, and as if they lack–or are void of–energy. Some people said they feel despair or uneasiness when they select this option, but other people like it.
        • Some people say that attractors tend to bring people to places with more things to see.
        • But, as the book points out, that could just be confirmation bias.
      • You can also choose Blind Spots instead, which are just random points.
        • Within Blind Spots, you can choose Quantum or Pseudo.
          • Pseudo coordinates are mathematically random.
          • Quantum coordinates . . . have something to do with something quantum. I’m sorry, I don’t really understand what that means.
        • https://www.randonautica.com/randonauting-101 
    • Then, you set your intention by thinking about it, and click the Generate button. It’ll generate a point for you.
      • You’ll notice a bit more jargon when you get your point: You’ll get stats for Z score and Power.
      • I’ll read from the Randonautica book to explain what Z-score means, because I took stats 15 years ago and don’t remember this kind of technical stuff:
  • “Z-score tells you how many standard deviations you are from the mean. The higher the z-score, the farther it is from the normal, expected distribution. Z-score is used in Randonautica to show the likelihood that a certain point has been influenced by consciousness. Z-scores greater than 5 are considered interesting, because the deviation from the normal, expected outcome is so far outside of chance that the scientists studying Randonautica hypothesize the point has likely been influenced by the operator’s conscious intent.
  • In the example of the Randonautica algorithm, which lays out thousands of random points and measures how densely they cluster, the z-score tells us how unlikely that cluster was to occur. If an attractor has a power of 5, that means it is five times more dense than the average amount of points on the map. The higher the score, the denser the cluster of random points, and the more likely that it has been influenced by intention. 
  • The concept of “power level” also comes into play here. If you imagine the distribution of random points as forming hills and valleys, the power level gives you an idea of how high or low these valleys are, while the z-score represents volume (e.g., how many pounds of soil are in those hills).”
    • Okay, you got all that? Anyway, that’s Z-score and power level.
  • At that point, I always like to click the bookmark button and label the bookmark with my intention, so it’s easy to refer back to later on when reflecting on the trip.
  • Then you go to your point, paying attention to anything interesting you encounter or experience during your journey or at your point. If you can, document your experiences so you can look back at them later.

 

Safety factors to remember while Randonauting

    • Randonautica themselves have a whole set of safety rules, which I wanted to review real quick.
    • The official Randonautica rules are, and this is me paraphrasing:
      • Don’t trespass on private property.
      • Stay away from dangerous areas.
      • Don’t randonaut at night.
      • Bring a trash bag so you can pick up litter.
      • Charge your phone, especially since GPS is so battery-draining.
      • Be positive in your intentions.
      • Don’t randonaut alone.
      • Only go where you feel comfortable.
      • Use common sense.
      • Enjoy the journey, not just the point you’re directed to.
    • I think these are all good guidelines, for the most part. I randonaut a lot at night, but I live in NYC so that’s totally different from being somewhere remote and dark, etc.
    • I mentioned this in the last episode, when talking about investigating the paranormal alone, but a number of GPS devices and apps let you send your location to your emergency contact so they can keep an eye on where you are, for safety, so it may be worth doing that while randonauting as well.
    • You also might want to bring snacks and water for while you’re out.
    • One thing that the book mentions is that sometimes the actual point will be in a body of water or on private property, so you’ll only be able to get near the point. That’s still fine and should yield interesting things.
    • The book also recommends meditation and grounding yourself; that can especially help if you feel anxiety or fear about going to an unknown location. There are lots of great ways to ground yourself, but if you don’t know where to begin, just search YouTube and you’ll find tons of options for guided grounding meditations.
    • I want to spend a bit more time talking about intentions.
      • The book talks a bit about latent or conflicting intentions, and suggests using this method to try to resolve them:
  • “A good exercise is to write down all of your desires and see if any of them conflict with one another. Sometimes you think you want something, but deep down you really don’t. Part of setting a good intention is knowing what you want. You should be extremely brief and really think about the words you are using to formulate your intention. It doesn’t hurt to start looking up the specific meaning of the words you are using in the dictionary.”
    • In general, I do think you should be wary and careful about your intentions, and make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up to be led to something unpleasant. 
    • This sort of falls within the bounds of sensible paranormal investigation guidelines. I do think it’s worth ensuring that you’re in a stable enough mental state to be interacting with the unknown. In the last episode, I alluded to some of my own struggles with mental health, and how I try to avoid paranormal investigation, spirit communication, and just . . . too much contact with the unknown . . . when I’m feeling bad. 
    • I, at least, have a tendency to get reckless when I’m in a bad mental state–I’m a naturally curious person, and I can be curious to a fault when I’m very depressed, for example. For me, that’s because my self-preservation instincts are low in that state, and I end up with an “I don’t care what happens, throw anything at me!” attitude, which can be dangerous. That has led me to the occasional unpleasant paranormal experience. And even with Randonautica, I often take a break for a few months if I’m just not feeling into it. 
    • I do think it’s possible to be in a bad enough headspace that you just can’t come up with a safe intention. But at the same time, I definitely think that something like Randonautica can help you get out of the house, go on adventures, and even lead to some self-discovery and reflection, all things that can really help folks with their mental health.
    • I try to listen to my own intuition on this kind of thing and not force it, and I’d advise you to, as well. 
    • Oh, and one side note that I wish I’d mentioned last episode: If you’re new to more active paranormal investigation (like the Estes Method that I talked about last week) or metaphysical exploration like Randonauting then I do think it’s worth thinking about psychic self-protection. You don’t have to, obviously–follow your heart–but it’s at least worth considering.
      • I personally use a couple different protection methods. 
      • One of those is drawn from my own faith tradition, so I’d advise that you look into your own faith for methods of protection, if faith is something you’re into.
      • The other psychic self-protection method that I use is a modified version of the Tower of Light method from The Llewellyn Practical Guide To Psychic Self-Defense by Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips. 
        • I have an old copy of the book from the 1980s, which you can find for super cheap, like less than $5 USD, on ebay or thriftbooks. The book, or at least the edition that I have, can be a little dated in some of its language and examples, but it was worth the read for the Tower of Light. I think there might be a new edition of the book that might be worth picking up, but the title’s different so I’m not totally sure if it’s the same.
        • I read the book back in 2018 and have been using the method ever since. One nice thing about it is that it’s designed to work to protect you from psychic dangers, but also from more metaphorical stuff, from people who might make demands on your time that enervate you, etc.
        • I can’t promise that it’ll work the same way for you, but for me, it’s been immensely helpful for life in general in NYC, especially when I worked in the city. In the neighborhood where I used to work, there were often canvassers or salespeople trying to get you to sign up for things, and multiple times a week, a person with a clipboard would approach me, and then I’d do a quick, modified version of the Tower of Light, and the person would turn around and walk away, or look away from me and accost someone else instead, etc.
        • Again, not sure if it’d be as effective for you, but if you’re looking for a psychic self-defense technique and don’t know where to start, I think The Llewellyn Practical Guide To Psychic Self-Defense is great, though I know there are lots of great resources out there for psychic self-defense.
    • Anyway, I know that was a tangent, but I wanted to make sure to mention psychic self-defense. But to bring it back to what started this detour, be responsible when choosing an intention.

Conclusion

  • So that’s how to use Randonautica. 
  • Like I mentioned, if this interests you at all, definitely pick up The Official Guide to Randonautica: Everything You Need to Know about Creating Your Random Adventure Story by Joshua Lengfelder and Auburn Salcedo (2021). The book has been really helpful to me in trying to wrap my head around some of the concepts surrounding Randonautica. 
  • I’ll also include a link in the show notes to an interview with Joshua Lengfelder that was on the podcast/radio show Nite Drift, which is how I heard about the book. It’s a really interesting conversation: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5aOK237MXWb3waNOmxjEkx?si=ot8xKRg8QjqzQNYZ_CsBPg&nd=1 
  • Next time, I’ll talk about some of my own randonauting experiences, and I’ll probably also touch on some more important randonauting concepts that I didn’t get to this time, like memetics, the despair meme, and synchronicity.

 

 

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