Are there 10x programmers?

→ An answer I wrote to this question on Quora.

Software Engineering: What is the truth of 10x programmers?
Do they really exist?…

Let’s answer the other way round: I once had to take heavy anti-histamines for three weeks. My mind was horribly hazy from that, and I felt awake only about two hours per day. However I spent every day working on a matrix multiplication problem.

It was three weeks of failure, because I just could not grasp the problem. I was unable to hold it in my mind.

Then I could finally drop the anti-histamine.

On the first day I solved the problem on my way to buy groceries. On the second day I planned the implementation while walking for two hours . On the third day I finished the program.

This taught me to accept it when people don’t manage to understand things I understand: I know that the brain can actually have different paces and that complexity which feels easy to me might feel infeasible for others. It sure did feel that way to me while I took the anti-histamines.

It also taught me to be humble: There might be people to whom my current state of mind feels like taking anti-histamines felt to me. I won’t be able to even grasp the patterns they see, because they can use another level of complexity.

To get a grasp of the impact, I ask myself a question: How would an alien solve problems who can easily keep 100 things in its mind — instead of the 4 to 7 which is the rough limit for humans?

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