Bradley Kirton's Blog

Published on July 10, 2023

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Race Conditions

I recently completed the Programming with Google Go Specialization on Coursera. I thought the course did a great job in defining a race condition.

A race condition is such that the desired outcome of a program depends on a specific ordering of task interleaving in a system in which task interleaving is non-deterministic.

Task interleaving refers to the switching and executing of instructions at a machine code level. To better illustrate this idea, suppose we have the following source code which defines a function which mutates some global state.

package main

import (

var wg sync.WaitGroup
var i int

func inc() {
    i += 1

func main() {
    go inc()
    go inc()
    fmt.Printf("The value of i is %d\n", i)

Let's assume inc function generates the following machine code instructions:

  1. read i
  2. inc
  3. write i

Given that we have no control over the scheduling of instruction execution, this in theory could result in the following interleaving:

Task 1Task 2Value of i
read i0
read i0
write i
write i