Falsehoods Programmers Believe about Material Reality

Coby Tamayo 4 Coby Tamayo

Falsehoods programmers believe about material reality

⚠️ Content warning: surrealism, discussion of capitalist realism, ego death

Many programmers are sure to recognize the meme referenced in this article’s title, but for the uninitiated, there is a rich online tradition of extrapolating from one’s own flawed perceptions and projecting them indiscriminately onto others. These contributions to worldly knowledge take the form Falsehoods programmers believe about X, where X is some topic that programmers have opinions about, such as software trends, coding practices, whether or not Pablo Honey is a good album, the heat death of the universe, etc.

These articles are useful to programmers exactly 100% of the time, even when they’re wrong. This is because programmers have opinions about things, and like to discuss how differing opinions are wrong and flawed and inferior to their own, which engages their brain muscles and makes the muscles much, much stronger over time. This increases programmer output and drives up quarterly sales by up to 42%. However, because programmers type very, very fast, they cannot engage in these flame wars without an endless supply of things to argue about. Falsehoods articles fill that gap, quenching their thirst for mildly contentious obscurities to blow out of proportion.

Today we are proud to announce that we have mined the depths of material reality and unlocked heretofore secret knowledge about the nature of all of existence. As with any quarterly marketing goal, a lot of care, thought and caffeine went into discovering this arcane wisdom. Once we realized what we held in our possession, we cradled it tenderly like a swaddling-clothed babe on a cold winter’s eve, consulting the Runes and some trusted Twitter followers about the most responsible way to impart it to the world. Our conclusion: a new Falsehoods article, comprehensive in scope and final in authority, would boost our Dev team’s productivity and, as a side benefit, bestow fundamental insights unto humanity.

Without further ado, here is our timeless, authoritative list of falsehoods programmers (and probably many other people) believe about material reality.

1. Material reality is a thing

Contrary to the latest consensus on social, material reality is not a thing. It is merely the heat-shimmer of consciousness radiating off of your karmic being. (Your karmic being, or “soul,” is of course an illusion too.) With practice, you can actually perceive this Truth on your own by staring at it directly. This is a difficult task, however, as you must first open your third eye, a spiritual milestone that even most AWS-certified Site Reliability Engineers lack the skills to achieve.

2. Algorithms are not magic

Whatever you’ve heard about algorithms, you probably know that they govern our daily reality, shaping our world in ways both tangible and intangible. They are everywhere, and they are nowhere, they are the Alpha and the Omega, they are the void that gazes back. This is common knowledge.

But what are algorithms? Some people may think they know, but they don’t. Until now.

A programmer would likely tell you that an algorithm is just a series of steps, usually (but not necessarily) deterministic, that computers or other worldly actors take to arrive at some result. But that’s not true: algorithms actually are magic. Specifically, an algorithm is a wizard in a box that does stuff when you ask him to. The wizard eats electricity and that is why you have to turn your computer on for it to work; otherwise the wizard just goes to sleep and does not do anything even if you asking him really nicely. If you’re fast, you can open the little algorithm box inside your computer and see the wizard doing his little wizard thing, but watch out! Wizards are shy and don’t like the outside world much. They will usually cast a spell of invisibility when you look at them.

Opening the wizard box will probably void your warranty, so be aware of your device manufacturer’s terms and conditions before attempting to do so.

3. Ego death is not a debugging tool

For the non-technical crowd, a debugging tool or debugger is a program you run while another program is running to figure out what’s going on inside that other program. For example, a programmer at Google might run a debugger on Gmail to figure out a glitch or validate their understanding when working on a new Gmail feature. As they use their work-in-progress version of Gmail, the debugger can help them discover when things go wrong.

The thing is, debuggers are themselves just computer programs with their own quirks and limitations. It can be challenging to use them correctly, and since every program is different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to using a debugger on your own software.

Or is there?

The thing to understand about software bugs is that they exist entirely within material reality. This in itself is not a revelation, but it sheds light on a deep mystery surrounding the nature of bugs and other natural phenomena, such as rainbows. To fix a software bug (or a rainbow), one need only to dissolve the ego and become one with the deep consciousness of the universe, thereby transcending the superficial reality from which the bug derives its meaning.

This is a handy trick you can demonstrate during your next pair programming session.

4. Material reality is the basis for the current world order

We’ve reached the end of history; capitalism is final and only to be improved incrementally; free market solutions are the only rational way to organize society and the wisdom of the market is objectively benign and forward-thinking. Death and taxes. Debts must always be paid. So goes the conventional wisdom.

As it turns out, history is written by whoever pays the utility bills for the server farms, which as we know have their own interests surrounding the distribution of wealth and power. These interests do not align with the values of most people. Deriving their power from Faustian bargains with the unnamed gods of the nether regions, these people have almost unfathomable influence over how we perceive our environment and how we move (or do not move) through the world we share. You know who we mean: people like Charles and David Koch, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and other entities like Scrooge McDuck and Mark Zuckerberg.

A better world is actually possible, we just have to do the work of deconstructing the reality that is so that we can bring to fruition what must be.

5. You should get mad at me for telling the truth

If you’re a fan of the neoliberal order and you don’t like what I said, you may think you should take to the internet and say not nice things about me, but that is not what you should do. I’m just the messenger. This isn’t a disclaimer, by the way. It’s verbatim what The Oracle told me to say for this part. As in, the paragraph you’re reading comprises the literal words that came out of her mouth during the Ritual of the Consecration of Truth, and even though I’m speaking in the first person I’m actually just writing down exactly what she said in her raspy, unearthly voice. Yeah it’s weird, how do you think I felt. But seriously, humans can do better than capitalism. So say I, Oracle of the Seventh Comet, Knower of All Things Programmers Believe.

By the way, if you’re an Oracle in the Tacoma area and want to show me around I’m new here, hmu on the astral plane!! 🙏☄💃

6. Material reality is whatever you want it to be

This is still mostly true, except on Cyber Monday, when material reality is 50% off, and there are no refunds.

Well that’s it

That’s all the falsehoods that there are. Don’t forget to follow us on Google Plus if you want more Truth with a Capital T. And hit that notification bell to be notified of new posts! It’s somewhere on this page, but you won’t find it if you’re looking for it. Anyway, we know this article enlightened you, but there’s really no need to thank us. You’re welcome.