Do drugs help programmers?
Can marijuana, LSD or other psychedelic drugs help programmers write better code?
Election Day 2012 has come and gone and, aside from President Obama and his supporters, one of the happiest groups has to be marijuana smokers. Pot smokers are by definition, a pretty happy bunch anyways, but they must be extra pleased that Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives to legalize the recreational use of it. My own state of Massachusetts passed an initiative to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Note to self: see primary care physician about my “achy back.”
Yesterday’s big wins for Mary Jane, of course,
begs raises the obvious question: what does this mean for programmers?
Ok, maybe it’s not such an obvious question, but I ask because there’s been chatter recently in programmer discussion forums about whether drugs can actually help produce better code.
This discussion quickly gets bogged down in the weeds - er, details. What type of drugs are we talking about? Marijuana? LSD? Cocaine? Caffeine? And what do you mean by “better code”? Fewer bugs? Code that solves a problem in a more elegant fashion? Better (or at least more entertaining) comments?
In the end, I think the main question really is, can the use of “mind expanding” drugs (hallucinogens) help programmers to “think outside the box” and come up with more solutions (or more creative solutions) to difficult problems?
Certainly, many famous creative people have advocated in the past for using acid and other similar drugs. But, while it may be good for writing song lyrics or coming up with guitar licks, will LSD or a few hits of weed help the guy in the cube next to you better code your company’s new mobile app?
Proper empirical studies on the effects of psychedelic drugs are, not surprisingly, few and far between. While there is some evidence that such drugs could help with problem solving, there’s not nearly enough data to come to any definitive conclusion.
Based on my own experience, drugs can definitely help your coding - so long as those drugs are caffeine and ibuprofen. I have a hard time buying that anybody (programmer or otherwise) is really going to do better work either high, tweaking or tripping. Would the use of mind expanding drugs at some point in your life (not necessarily in the middle of the work day) help you to think and problem solve more creatively? Maybe, though I tend to think it’s about as useful to programming as a background in creative writing.
At the very least, programmers in Colorado and Washington now have a new legal way to kick back and relax after the end of long sprint. So, to you coders in those states, fire up the bong and break out the Suzy Q’s! Just don’t tell the feds, because they still don’t approve.
Please share your take in the comments section.