Moving Mouse Tree

I have a pet snake called Scsi (don’t ask!). He eats warm mice, nothing else. I keep the mice in the freezer until needed, then defrost them slowly and finally warm them in a cup of hot water.

A few years ago Scsi was not easy to feed: I had to spend time waving small warm mice in front of him before he would bite. He is much easier to feed now for at least 3 different reasons:

  1. He eats larger mice.
  2. I can tell when he is hungry.
  3. He can recognise his feeding by me.

I have phrased #3 quite carefully, but I’ll explain in more detail: Scsi doesn’t know what I am! When I move in a particular way he knows that I supply food, and he also knows that he can safely climb up my arm; he might think I’m a moving mouse tree!

As Scsi gets older, he will gain increasing experience of being a snake. He might learn new things, but he will never understand who or what I am, and he will always be a snake. Humans are just too different for snakes to comprehend, unless they smell like warm mice.

Unfortunately, many programmers are like Scsi. They live as masters in their own tiny vivariums, and they don’t recognise the greater things outside. They continue to program in the same way, and may gain many years experience without ever becoming more advanced. I have seen programmers with 2 years experience who were much better than other programmers with 10 years.

This effect is common with Perl programmers. Perl has a larger range of expression than most other programming languages, so you are much more likely to find these primitive programmers in a Perl world: they might have 5 years experience of CGI scripting with Perl, and they might even be extremely good at CGI scripting with Perl, but they are not advanced Perl programmers.

This problem is not confined to higher-level languages: I have observed similar situations with lower-level languages like C, C++, and Java.

But let’s not limit this analogy to programmers. Many people (although still a minority) don’t believe in God! They look out of their vivarium and believe they understand the universe despite the constant reminders that they don’t.