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Examples of unlearning

I was being interviewed for our college’s software research lab during my masters, and I claimed that my strength is: “… the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

I knew back then too, that this was an important ability and I try to work on improving it.

It’ll be nice to have a list of what I had to unlearn and replace with a new learning.

Unlearned the behaviour of equals operator (=) (2018-05-21)

Learning Elixir made me do it. In Elixir, = doesn’t do assignment but does pattern matching, hence it is called a match operator.

As Dave Thomas identified, Joe Armstrong, Erlang’s creator compares the equals in Erlang to that used in algebra.

x = a + 1 is not meant to assign the value of a + 1 to x, but it asserts that x and a + 1 are equal.

So, if you know the value of x or a, you can find out the value of the other.

His point is that you had to unlearn the algebraic meaning of = when you first came across assignment in imperative programming languages. Now’s the time to un-unlearn it.

– Dave Thomas, in Programming Elixir