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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult_programming)
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?