Let me tell you the story of a man named Gehn (and link to Wikipedia excessively in the process).

In the Myst series of games, there is a civilization called the D'ni. In their vast underground caverns, the D'ni created a way to "link" to different worlds and civilizations using a precise system of writing.

D'ni civilization was based around various guilds. One of these guilds produced special books, one guild made special ink, one wrote worlds into the books using the ink, and one verified that the writers were doing a good job.

Using the precise language of the writer guild, the correct ink from the ink maker guild and the right book from the book maker guild, a D'ni could create an entirely new world, complete with flora and fauna, and visit it. Each book was a work of art, bringing its passenger to the imagination of its writer. (Technically the books didn't create new worlds, but rather "connect" to existing worlds that match the precise descriptions in the books — though most of the time there is no distinction between creating and connecting.)

If the writers are careless, then a simple out-of-place word could mean the destruction of the world on the other side, and everyone living there. That is why only the writer guild was allowed to create worlds, and even then only under the scrutiny of the guild masters. If even one feature of the world was described too vaguely, then anything could happen. For instance, the planet's star could go nova, or the planet's weather could be too hostile to support life. When playing god anything and everything can go wrong.

Without going into the details of the games' stories, the D'ni civilization fell leaving a young would-be ink maker named Gehn to fend for himself in the ruins of the once-proud D'ni capital. With access to countless left-over books and inks, Gehn took it upon himself to bring D'ni back from the grave by writing new worlds and teaching the people there the ways of the D'ni.

But Gehn was too proud of his heritage. He didn't take the time to fully comprehend what he was doing, believing his D'ni blood would show him the way.

He started writing books.

Since he didn't have a firm understanding of the creativity involved in creating worlds (nor the immense level of detail and precision required to keep them stable), he never wrote a sentence of his own. He simply "copied and pasted" sections from books still scattered around the remains of the capital, having only a rough idea of what each one was meant to do.

Needless to say, the worlds Gehn wrote all ended in ruin. Each one ripped itself apart in one way or another. Even his best world, Riven, was doomed to be, well, riven. Because the passages he stole from other books were a small part of a greater whole that Gehn never cared to understand, they did not work out of this context as well as they should have. Every spliced citation caused a new problem in Gehn's worlds.

Gehn embodies a rather disturbing fact of life, which is that people who don't know what they're doing are incapable of knowing that they don't know what they're doing, and indeed believe they are doing the right thing. Gehn truly believed that he could bring back the D'ni civilization, and that he was doing the best job possible, even though everything he created was riddled with flaws.

That sounds a lot like software engineering, doesn't it? We have programmers who create, infrastructure guys who give the programmers the tools they need to create, and testers to make sure the programmers' creations don't kill everyone. And just like Gehn we have countless people who believe that programming is nothing more than taking code written by other people without taking the time to fully understand it (or, as it is in this case, without even bothering to read it in the first place). At least as long as this is the case we can still laugh about them and their silly beliefs on such sites as The Daily WTF.

The lesson today is don't be Gehn, lest all of your creations crumble in front of your disbelieving eyes. Don't put yourself in a situation away from people who can tell you that you're doing something incredibly stupid and naive. A little bit of self doubt can go a long way; and it's much better in the long run to have asked someone for advice and succeeded than to have pushed forward stubbornly toward your own doom. The worst thing you can possibly do is assume you know everything.