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Chapter 7. Homo Logicus > Programmers Focus on What Is Possible to the Exclusio...

Programmers Focus on What Is Possible to the Exclusion of What Is Probable

Programmers share the mathematician's abstract view of complex systems, so it is not surprising that they look at things differently from most people. Here's what I mean: Imagine that you flipped a coin 1,000,000 times, and 999,999 times the coin landed heads up. To a mathematician, the assertion that “the coin always lands heads up” is false. That single tails-up result disproves the assertion. In mathematical terms, a proposition is true only if it is always true, and this way of thinking is very familiar and reasonable to Homo logicus because, not surprisingly, it's the way computers behave.

On the other hand, most normal people will declare the proposition true because of the preponderance of heads to tails. They also will claim that not only is the proposition true, but it is overwhelmingly, convincingly, indisputably true. The odds are a million to one! In the context of human behavior, million-to-one odds are definitive. They are odds beyond consideration. There's a better chance that I will get hit by lightning, accidentally fall off a bridge, or win the lottery than that the coin will land tails up.


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