The Divide by Zero Programmer

Most working programmers have heard of the 10x programmer, a mythical creature that accomplishes 10 times more than their peers. Some believe it’s a myth and some believe it’s true. I personally don’t know, but I do know of a creature that is ultra rare but very real called the Divide by Zero programmer.

In most programming languages, divide-by-zero is defined as infinity. This usually comes from the idea that if you have a function 1/x where x approaches zero, you approach infinity. Since 1/0.1 = 10, and 1/0.01 = 100, and 1/0.000001 = 1000000, and so on.

If we define “one” in our case to mean “Able to start a project from scratch” and “zero” to mean “Unable to start a project from scratch”, then a programmer who is able to start a project is unknowably more valuable than someone who can’t.

Now you may ask “Valuable how?”. Many great programmers are wonderful at modifying existing software. I would argue it’s much more valuable work than what the Divide by Zero programmer does in aggregate. After all, you make a cup once, but wash it a thousand times. And it’s no secret that most software is in maintenance mode. Software goes into maintenance mode as soon as version one is released. So it’s perfectly valuable to have people who can improve and maintain that software.

However, the Divide by Zero programmer can be an engine that drives invention in software. They are rare because the blank page is terrifying. It takes a bit of what I call “The Fighting Spirit” to tackle the blank page.

The story doesn’t end there. Those alert enough might have realized that the function 1/x can approach zero from the other side! That is, 1/-0.1 = -10, and 1/-0.01 = -100, and 1/-0.000001 = -1000000, and so on. In other words, the Divide by Zero programmer is also unknowable destructive too!

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