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November 25, 2008 1:31 AM CST by psilord in category Codecraft

It Hurts But I Don't Care

Deep in the crevasse of sanity one becomes blind to the subtle horror of inexplicable behavior. Normalcy is defined and bound by consistent rules in one's interaction with the world: if you drop a ball, it hits the ground, if you speed in front of a police officer, you get a ticket, and if you scream obscenities at the passing car on the I-5 whom just cut you off, you get shot. These rules and countless others smooth our movements through life at least enough to give us the illusion of control or happiness. Oh such fleeting deceptions, how I miss thee.

There is certainty in these rules that tricks us into believing the world is a sane and rational place. The fundamental tenant of cause and effect form not only the seeds of civilization, but beget the Gods themselves.

Enter programming, which should be defined as "The moment one realizes something is inconsistent."

One may have chosen wrong instead of inconsistent, but that is incorrect because when something is wrong, like a flat tire, it stays wrong. Inconsistency leaches away rationality until the primal core of chaotic rage surges forth through the shards of intellect and tears asunder life and happiness, until determination and insight wreck themselves on its jagged shore, and until the spark of hope and desire to resolve causation sputter and die.

Programmers spend their entire lives in a vicious cycle of engendering inconsistency and then wallowing in it. Horror encircles tragedy in an ever decaying orbit until the event horizon of insanity is passed and one grows permanently numb to the pain.

I propose a special kind of yearly contest--one that puts the spotlight on the actual skill of a programmer. The skill to write inconsistent programs that cannot be reasoned about.

The goal of this contest is to produce a piece of code (max 10,000 lines in any language) or interaction with an OS that exhibits a preferably non-deterministic bug in such a manner as to elude detection by tools such as gdb, valgrind, coverity, statistical debugging methods, etc. For extra points, the bug should be in a mainstream language and successfully eludes human code inspection. The code should not only look perfect to the crude tools we have, but it should look perfect to the human as well. The judging shall be done by attempts of other programmers. Each audience member will reasonably document an attempt to solve the bug. The contest will be open a certain number of weeks, and after that, the program(s) with the largest number of attempts to understand the bug will be the winner. Bonus points awarded if the bug never gets solved. The author must never reveal the bug--it must only be found by others by breaking their minds against them. There will be a lifetime achievement award for programmers whose entries survive far beyond the lifespan of an individual contest.

The name of this contest shall be:

A Simple Hack

End of Line.

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