Tech moves fast! Stay ahead of the curve with Techopedia!
Join nearly 200,000 subscribers who receive actionable tech insights from Techopedia.
Cargo cult programming is a term used to describe the practices of green, unsophisticated or less than fully competent programmers or engineers in using certain types of rituals or habits in code that revolve around a lack of understanding of what code does. These actions can be characterized as superstitious, rote reactions or a tendency of form over function.
Cargo cult programming is also known as voodoo
The term “cargo cult” comes from religious groups that sprung up in indigenous South Pacific populations after the World War II era. Some of the practices of these groups included building mock aircraft and landing strips as a testament to the actual airplanes that delivered cargo during the war years. The term “cargo cult programming” stems from “cargo cult science” traced back to a book by Richard Feynman in 1985.
Other tech experts describe cargo cult programming in specific scenarios. In a blog post on the subject, tech writer and coder Scott Hanselman likens it to people who own homes and do not know how plumbing works, or drivers who do not understand how vehicles move around on the road. Some in computer science academia use the term to talk about students who repeatedly fail to grasp functional concepts around coding, and rather than exploring the functions of code, keep going back to formalist methods or relying on source code formalism to complete projects.