Why Programmers Don’t “Get It”

I saw this post on Coding Horror yesterday, and I immediately know that this will be one of those “Oh boy!” moments. The post asks a simple question:

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you met someone who told you they had two children, and one of them is a girl. What are the odds that person has a boy and a girl?

OK, I was a professional programmer myself, and still do quite a bit of programming work now. Nevertheless, I knew that the answer to this question proves that programmers tend to want to be technically correct even at the expense of being seen as an idiot.

So the technically correct answer is: The odds of that person having a boy and a girl is 2/3 or roughly 66%. This is mathematically true (read why) but absolutely irrelevant in real life.

I’m sure the answer is blatantly obvious, except for the most hardcore game theorists: No normal person will say; “I have two children and one of them is a boy. The other one is a boy too.”

So the reality is the chances are closer to 100%… unless of course, the person you’ve asked the question to is a game theorist or a *cough!* programmer *cough!*.