Cargo cult

The term “cargo cult,” as an idiom, originally referred to aboriginal religions that grew up in the South Pacific after World War II. The practices of these groups centered on building elaborate mock-ups of airplanes and military landing strips in the hope of summoning the god-like airplanes that had brought marvelous cargo during the war. (

Once I learned about cargo cult, I can see it almost everywhere, which is itself a fun feature of human minds. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but it’s a different story for another post.

Interesting but I can easily relate to feelings of aboriginals, I can understand their logic. If you see on a daily basis how planes are arriving and bring more and more supply, you start to think that during the whole your previous life you did a wrong thing growing bananas. What you needed is to build an airstrip and then wait for those planes. Naive? Not that naive. It was an observation proved by many experiments in the eyes of aboriginals. I would say many modern people are more naive and easily believe into much more weird things. Look at the stock exchange for some examples.

I can see this fallacy almost everywhere and especially in my IT field. Junior programmers copy the huge parts of code just because they have seen them in big projects. Moreover, we can see that not only in code but in design patterns, in the ways of task’s decomposition.

It’s pretty understandable. It’s exactly the way how we learn by copying the masters, by following the examples. How to find the exact line where and when the copying doesn’t work anymore? Especially if experiments show false positive results: it works somehow. I don’t know the answer.

– Do you understand what is Cargo Cult?
– Do you have any examples of Cargo Cult from your life experience?
– Do you have any advice on how to avoid this fallacy?


  1. I get it moderately. As far as I understand, it's related to a belief of undeveloped tribals that expects someone from the developed region would bring new gadgets that the tribals believe they are supposed to receive.

    This is a quite new scenario to me.

    I think whenever my state government announces freebies to the citizen like TV, Bi-cycle, Laptop, other gadgets, we can refer that as a cargo cult. People cast their vote based on the freebies they are going to receive from the government. 🙂

  2. Not really, the idea of Cargo Cult is this:

    During ww2 Americans needed military bases in that region.

    If you can see that from the eyes of aboriginals it looks this way: 

    a few soldiers arrived and built an airstrip after that tons and tons of planes landed and bring tents, food, drinks, clothes – whatever you want.

    We are not that stupid to continue our farming thought aboriginals and started to build own airstrips, control towers and other airport things and then wait for airplanes.

    Do you see their logic? In their understanding of the world, it should work. They have seen this many times.


    The same now with liberals, they have heard somewhere about diversity. Now diversity their axiom, their Cargo Cult.

    Hillary thought that if she would have the most diverse team for election she would have won them.

    Happily, it works in a different way.

Leave a Reply