Alice playing croquet with a hedgehog and a flamingo © Sir John Tenniel

By imperfect coupling of biological systems in the famous game of croquet, however, Carroll creates a meta-random game. Alice is coupled with a flamingo, and the “ball” is a hedgehog.

The “purposes” (if we may use the term) of these contrasting biological systems are so discrepant that the randomness of play can no longer be delimited with finite sets of alternatives, known to the players.

Alice’s difficulty arises from the fact that she does not “understand” the flamingo, i.e., she does not have systemic information about the “system” which confronts her. Similarly, the flamingo does not understand Alice. They are at “cross- purposes.” The problem of coupling man through consciousness with his biological environment is comparable. If consciousness lacks information about the nature of man and the environment, or if the information is distorted and inappropriately selected, then the coupling is likely to generate meta-random sequence of events.

Gregory Bateson, Steps to an ecology of mind